Although sleep is an often-overlooked aspect of maintaining good mental health, its importance is undeniable. Research shows around 75% of people with depression also show signs of insomnia. A lack of regular healthy sleep can have negative impacts on your mental health and well-being.
As part of our aim to increase mental health awareness, we want to discuss how sleep can improve your mental health, and what you can do if you feel you aren’t getting enough sleep.
How does mental health affect sleep?
Poor mental health can negatively impact your quality of sleep, and a lack of quality sleep can cause further mental health problems and worsen any existing mental health conditions.
These are a few mental health disorders that can impact sleep:
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Eating disorders
- Chronic stress
How does lack of sleep affect the brain?
Our brain needs sleep daily, and without regular, consistent, healthy sleep, we risk developing short-term and long-term negative effects that can impact our mental health and cognitive function.
Common short-term effects of lack of sleep include::
- Memory difficulties
- Concentration issues
- Decreased cognitive function
- Weak immune system
Over time you can develop long-term issues from lack of sleep. Studies show that prolonged lack of sleep can lead to changes in the brain, making you at risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and chronic depression.
Our bodies are in a state of healing as we sleep, our immune system needs sleep to work properly. With lack of sleep, your immune system is weakened, and you are at increased risk of developing physical illness. Sleep is responsible for regulating hormone balances in the body. A lack of sleep can lead to an imbalance of hormones in the brain which can impact our mood and cognitive function.
How can quality sleep improve mental health?
The mental health benefits of quality sleep are undeniable.
Here are some of the benefits you can experience by improving your sleep.:
1. Improved mood
Sleep deprivation can make you feel tired, moody, anxious, and irritable constantly. Improved sleep leads to improved mood, which improves your general mental health.
2. Improved cognitive function
Our brain relies on sleep for optimal performance. Getting enough healthy sleep can lead to increased cognitive function, improved memory, attention, and a better hormone balance, which means our bodies can function like they should!
3. Reduce risk of mental disorders
Improved sleep can lead to a decrease in risk of disorders such as anxiety and depression, which leads to a better quality of life.
4. Improved overall physical health
Our physical bodies rely on sleep to heal and function effectively. Without proper sleep, we can become unhealthy and reliant on unhealthy foods like energy drinks and sugary foods to function throughout the day. This can lead to a cycle of unhealthy behaviours.
Improved sleep can lead to an improvement in physical health, which can make us feel more positive and mentally healthy.
What are the causes of sleep problems and how can we improve them?
If you’re experiencing sleep issues, it is important to get to the root of the problem so you can understand what you need to do to rectify the issue.
Here are a few things that can cause problems with sleep:
Stress and anxiety
If you’re going through a stressful period in your life, perhaps from work or your personal life, you may find it difficult to fall asleep.
Tips: Try unwinding before bed, practice relaxation techniques and limit your screen time before bed. This can reduce anxiety levels.
If you want to learn more about anxiety and how to treat it, find out more with our anxiety course.
Poor sleep habits
Unhealthy sleep habits include:
- Staying up late
- Inconsistent sleep schedules
- Consuming caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol before bed
- Eating heavy or spicy meals before bedtime
- Using electronic devices and social media before bed
- Lack of bedtime routine
Tips: If your sleep routine involves any of the above, it may be the reason why you suffer from a lack of healthy sleep. Eliminate any poor habits and watch your sleep and mental health improve.
Medical conditions and medications
Some medical conditions such as allergies, chronic pain or sleep disorders can make it difficult to sleep. Similarly, certain medications can cause sleep problems.
Tip: Speak to your doctor about your sleep issues and for any advice they can give you.
Caffeine, alcohol, and poor diet
Your diet plays an important role for your mental health and your sleep. If you have a bad diet, it could be the cause of your sleep problems and this can in turn be impacting your mental health.
Tips: Keep a balanced diet by reducing your junk food, caffeine and alcohol intake to improve your sleep, physical health and mental health.
How much sleep is important for mental health?
The amount of sleep we need changes throughout our lives. It is important that all ages get the sleep they need to maintain good mental health.
Here are the amount of hours of sleep recommended for each year of age:
- 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
- 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
- 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
- 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
- 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
- 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
- 65+ years: 7-8 hours
If you want to learn more about mental health, enrol on one of our mental health courses today.
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